Friday, August 28, 2009

Good Parenting . . .

It's very important that we be good parents. Parenting is the key for children to achieve success in the world. As a professional tutor for many years, I am a big believer in parenting as the ultimate lifesaver for our children. Why do some children succeed and others do not? Why are some children more confident of their innate abilities to achieve the highest goals when others are not? What is the great divide - the answer may lie in the bosom of the parent - the will and courage that they may show to steer their child towards hope and personal enrichment. Some children fail to reach those heights - they might be easily distracted, overcome by fear of being themselves, peer pressure and the like or plain old laziness and what I've come to call as the GREAT ACCEPTANCE (the general, univeral attititude among many children to keep the status quo - that if at first we don't succeed, we can rest on our laurels - that our situation cannot get better; that we cannot unseat ourselves from the cushions of depravity and slackness - that we cannot be proactive - that we cannot seek out universal truths in books and become great, learned men and women who can truly guide civilization towards a rightful path). What are parents to do? Of course, many of us are working parents and may not have time to give the care and attention that our children deserve? Thus, many children fall victim to social ills and are led astray. We must hold their hands - we must give them meaning - teach them higher truths - that life is a gift that should be cherished and that should be valued - that all of us have a higher calling - a spiritual journey that we must undertake to reach our salvation. We must not kick the wisdom of thousands of years to the curb like errant stones - we must embrace that wisdom - wrestle with the demons that reside there - and find light at the end of that long, dark tunnel - that platonic cave of the psyche where the dancing shadows on the walls keep us from seeing the light and glory of the day. I think of my play The Dinner Table, where the father in the story - James Molloy - is the personification of the best parent - the one that gently guides with an even hand and an open heart - one that clears the way for his children through the dark, wooded forests of the unknown with great understanding, charm, courage and gentleness. As we approach these holier months, let us resolve to be great parents - not good - not average - but great parents that our children can look upon with admiration and respect and do likewise or even exceed our own hopes and expectations. Parents bring children into the world and must shoulder the responsibility to give them rightful passage through life - let us not bend to the pressure of this task but embrace wholeheartedly. A child goes out into the world with hopes, dreams and aspirations, carrying the breath of life instilled by their parents that may rise or fall in the world but in the end form a more blessed union with a divine power. We must prove in so many ways to children and ourselves that their journey like a blank slate will be scarred and scratched but in the end through all the turmoil and adversity, the carvings on the walls do not decide their true destiny that is also written in the stars. Never in some many ways that I dedicate this blog to my own mother, a single parent.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Bill Gates' Problem

Bill Gates has a problem. A global problem that he cannot solve like so many of his computer algorithms. His problem is global health, poverty, malnutrition, disease and infant mortality and on and on and on. While his funding programs can do so much to relieve the poor, starved, huddled masses across the third-world spectrum, the road to hell might be paved with good intentions. He talks about Africa in his annual letter, a country that is the cradle of civilization and the poor farming and irrigation trends that span that country is a focal point of his philanthropic thesis. We must aid the lowly farmer and help him to grow more food in an efficient manner. This is accomplished through better fertilizer to grow sweeter yams that might promote an unnatural disposition of food production and agriculture on the African continent like kangaroos in the United States when throughout history Africa has been replenished by the torrential rains in the African plains that have for thousands of years nourished the soil and where animals have grazed freely and openly. I wonder about his medical programs that have brought an inordinate amount of healthcare like heaps of plastic needles that contaminate and pollute the grand expanse of the glorious continent and undermine its image in the world rather than quench its thirst from the cup of life. I wonder how much of the world's problems he can solve with his tamed charity that sweeps the world with a cold surgeon's glove and a rational heart. I wonder how the Africans and others truly feel about healthcare handouts and the unrelenting message of the Gates Foundation that "we are here to help," that "you need us," that "survival depends on this," that by hospitalizing the great African nation will make it more powerful and glorified in the end but in the process defy the ancient wisdom of the African shaman and the writing on the scrolls that have long been stored away in the recesses of innate memory. These notions to me, no matter the starvation, famine, illness that now plagues the innocent and unborn, are deeply without meaning or true salvation. Like the baptisms of the great religions, the Africans need a spiritual awakening, so that the land itself can yield greater fruit and a burgeoning civilization can once again thrive like the hanging gardens of Babylon that once mesemerized all human existence. It's hard to conceive that these programs are not in the least politicized and provide another proxy position to fight radicals in Somalia or awkwardly camouflouge U.S. forces fighting abroad and further downplay the desire of indigenous Africans to be liberated. For what reason . . . for purpose . . . for what intent. Bill Gates sticks out like a sore thumb in Africa and has branded the nation as a grieving childless mother that never nursed its young, cared for them or raised them to great intellectual, cultural and artistic heights. I am reminded of a quote in the Devil's Advocate where the devil exclaims, "There is no future." What future indeed, the righteous soul must concede, when Africa is now the slave to Dr. Livingstone - the imperial missionary who must be sought out and confronted. How do we do this? How can this be accomplished? More questions abound than answers when Bill Gates arrives in Africa.

Monday, July 20, 2009

The Oregon Trail

The other day when seeing one of my students playing an online computer game, I was reminded of a highly enjoyable educational game that I used to play in my early teens. We quickly searched online for a playable version of The Oregon Trail, a computer game developed in the 70's that is uniquely sophisticated for its standards and traces the historic national trail that led to much of the expansion of the American territories in the West. The game was developed by three students at Carleton College in Northfield, Minnesota using a mainframe computer and became an instant success and began serving schools throughout Minnesota and beyond. A game like this is highly appropriate for students to learn an essential component of American history and its unique interface (a DOS-based, interactive and diagnostic format) enable the student to truly live out the historical experience. During the game, students assume the role of a wagon leader who is charged with migrating across the famed Oregon Trail to settle in the newfound western territory. Today, with many parts of the trail, recognized as national historic places, the overland route provides a highly appropriate study on the widespread settlement of the American West that stretches from east of the Missouri to the Oregon territory. In fact along the trail, one can exhume large historical footprints that traverse formidable annals of American history including the fur trade, the Lewis and Clark expedition, the California Gold Rush, the spread of the Catholic faith, the later development and uses of the Transcontinental Railroad and a study of the wondrous creature of the American plains, the majestic Bison. The online game is a good replication of the actual trail and can help students experience the long road to Oregon through the eyes of a migrating settler. This is essential to help them understand the challenges faced by the early settlers, and in fact during the game, wagon wheels can break off, fellow travelers can drown or perish from illness and food, hunting and clothing are essential for survival. Further, much of the trail passes over actual historic sites and thus, provides a good geographical reference for the curious gamer. Importantly, for the student, the game can stir the imagination and time can be well spent studying American history through a unique gaming forum. Unlike modern games, the Oregon Trail requires thought and strategy and importantly, provides a unique virtual window to the breathful grandeur and expanse of the American countryside where the ubiquitous dream of finding freedom and a way of life beyond the horizon is ever so real. The game can be played online at http://www.virtualapple.org/oregontraildisk.html.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

The Knowing Cafe

Welcome to the Knowing Cafe, a forum where student learners can acquire exceptional tutoring services online and the opportunity to publish their student achievement as an ongoing affirmation of their professional tutoring experience. The Knowing Cafe celebrates "knowledge" foremost, which is deeply rooted in the overall human experience that recalls historical and cultural events that form the basis for modern dialectics and "Cafe", a place to cultivate ideas and thoughts in a free and open manner. Students and tutors are asked to come together and utilize the site to enhance their academic experience, engage in critical thinking and most of all, take part in an online tutoring clearinghouse that combines the joyous process of publishing with expert tutoring to motivate young learners and maximize their academic growth and achievement. All of us at the Knowing Cafe and our future members are excited for this opportunity to establish a clearinghouse of student work that celebrates professional and student achievement with curious minds online. So in the spirit of the Knowing Cafe, join us over a cup of knowledge and embark on the process of knowing, a magical and extraordinary journey across a vast intellectual landscape that has shaped much of our collective thought and progress. In the words of one famous Sufi poet, "I sought a soul in the sea, and found a coral there; beneath the foam for me, an ocean was all laid bare."